One organ donation benefits two people in need

Maria Contreras and Monica Davis had nothing in common until fate forced them together now they share the same life-saving liver from one donor.

WESTON, Fla. – Every year an estimated 1,700 Americans in need of a liver transplant die waiting for a donor organ, but there’s an approach to transplants that can help two people at the same time.

Maria Contreras and Monica Davis had nothing in common until fate forced them together.

Both women were diagnosed with diseases that were destroying their livers.

”It was a devastating blow to learn you have a life-threatening disease, you don’t know what your life expectancy is going to be,” said Davis.

”I was working and I stopped because my body started feeling so bad,” added Contreras.

Not only did these two women face diseases, but they also now share the same life-saving liver from one donor, a gift that fills a massive need.

”The number of patients that can be treated with a liver transplant are probably more than ten times higher than what are the potential offers from cadaveric livers,” said Dr. Antonio Pinna, an abdominal transplant surgeon with Cleveland Clinic Weston.

Cadaveric donor livers are from people who have died or are brain dead and can be split, benefitting two recipients.

For years, Pinna said this procedure has been performed between a child and an adult recipient because the liver has a larger and smaller side but medical advancements have made a split liver transplant possible for two adults but it is complicated.

”If, unfortunately, somebody becomes a donor, it has to be in the interest of the transplant community to determine if that donor, if that liver, can be split in two,” Pinna said.

The double benefit is not lost on those who get the chance to receive it, including Davis and Contreras who now call themselves split liver “sisters.”

”I feel so, so much better than before, thank God,” said Contreras.

”The blessing is me and my ‘sister’ are both alive. We’re getting to know each other, and that’s a good thing,” said Davis.

The prognosis for split liver patients is good. Pinna said 90 percent or more will go on to live a full life.

About the Author:

Veteran journalist Kathleen Corso is the special projects producer for Local 10 News.